Wales

Every university 'needs' Alcoholics Anonymous meetings

Half empty pints of lager on wooden table Image copyright Getty Images

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings should take place in universities across the UK, student leaders have said.

Charity AA says the number of younger people attending their meetings is on the increase.

NUS Wales president Gwyneth Sweatman said Cardiff University's sessions for problem drinkers, one of the first of its kind, have made a big difference.

One student said the help she received turned her life around.

Cardiff undergraduate "Marie" said alcohol pushed her life at university to the edge.

At her lowest ebb, she drank 15 pints of cider a day, was arrested and risked being kicked off her course.

She said: "It was affecting my work significantly.

"I wasn't concentrating in meetings, I couldn't focus, I was erratic in my behaviour and my decisions."

"I wasn't turning up, it was having a really negative effect on my mental health and that was spiralling, really awful anxiety and depression and suicide-based thoughts."

The latest official data suggest young people are drinking less.

However, Dr Mani Mehdikhani, a trustee at Alcoholics Anonymous, said the number of younger attendees at meetings was on the up.

"Looking at our own internal AA surveys that we conduct every five years, every time a survey is undertaken we have increasingly larger numbers of younger people coming as new-comers to AA.

"The last survey in 2015, about 33% of our newcomers were under 40 and I'm sure a big percentage were in the university student-age group."

Image caption The weekly AA meeting at Cardiff University's student union is for anyone who wants to stop drinking.

Cardiff University also has a student counselling and a well-being team which provides support for "some of the underlying difficulties associated with, or directly linked to, alcohol misuse".

Jennifer Kent, a vice president at the union, said: "For us it feels like a really good way of integrating the students and the community here, and it's also important that, by bringing it here, the students don't feel stigmatised."

NUS Wales president, Gwyneth Sweatman said she thought the AA meetings idea was "absolutely brilliant", and one which she would "love" to see replicated across the UK - similar to the United States, where college campaigns AA meetings are more common.

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